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Teach me oh wise ones.

Just bought my first smoker. Granted it's entry level but I figure why spend hundreds on something I don't know how to use yet. So anyway what are some tips and tricks?

Good recipes?

Meats to cook?

I plan on getting it together today and will "break it in" this weekend. (Apparently bring it up to temperature then let it cool down I guess.)

I'm pretty handy with a grille so this was the next logical step.

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Welcome to the world of BBQ, often mistaken for grilling/baking/or anything you add BBQ sauce to.

The world of BBQ truly represents your region like nothing else. Being a Texan, I can recommend Brisket once you get a few others under your belt. Since you're beginning, let me recommend chicken and turkey. These cook very well if you monitor your heat. Also, don't take your chicken apart before you cook it, you want it whole. The meat will probably end up pink near the bone, but this is completely normal.

To compliment your entree, try making your own sauce from mustard, peppers, tomatoes, etc. This is pretty standard across the Midwest and parts of TX. Under most conditions, stay away from store-bought sauces and make your own instead. Consistency and thickness is key here.

This will be very exciting to follow, good luck!

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If its wood/charcoal I would definitely start out with chicken while you get used to it and put it through its initial burn. Maintaining heat is key and figuring out how can get pricey using ribs. Ask me how I know :crying2:

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Been using one like that for years. It's actually in need of replacement now since the fire box rusted through. Can't maintain air flow with a huge hole in the bottom!

If you have any bacon fat, throw it in a pan on the grate and let it mix in with the heat when you break it in.

When you go to use it, buy a small loaf pan and put it in the doorway between the fire chamber and the smoker chamber. Fill it with apple cider vinegar. Keeping the air moist and humid is one of the keys to a great smoke session. And vinegar will help tenderize the meat too. Apple adds flavor and takes some of the "bite" out of the smoke if it gets too much.

As far as smoking butts, there are two schools of thought. One is to completely wrap the butt in foil and let the meat soak in it's own juices while it cooks. The other is to not use foil at all and let the smoke and heat develop a crusty bark on the outside. I prefer mine with bark.

EDIT: Either way, when you place the butt on the grill, fat side goes up so it will slowly melt and permeate the butt.

Wood choices. Deep south, with pork it's hickory or pecan. Apple wood is good too, I understand. I've found that with Briskets or any beef I prefer Mesquite. But experiment, that's what it's all about! Having fun and gettin' fat!!

Soak your wood for 24 hours in advance. Have lots of charcoal on hand. One of the best tips I can give you is to get a Weber chimney starter and use it. If you must use starter fluid, use it sparingly. With the chimney, you can stuff a newspaper or part of the charcoal bag under it and light it and walk away. 15 min. later it is ready to add to your fire box. DO NOT ADD COALS WITH STARTER FLUID ON THEM TO THE BOX UNLIT OR UNTIL THEY ARE COMPLETELY WHITE WITH ASH COVERING THEM. Your food will taste like fuel. Make sure you do not use coals that are "ready to light" You will never get all the fuel burned out of those damned coals!

Be patient and use a digital thermometer that you can stick the probe into and leave the thermometer on outside of the grill. A good size butt will take up to 12 hours or more depending on the outside temps and how you can maintain the smokers temps.

Always remove the meat and wrap it up in foil and let it stand 10-15 min before cutting it. This cool down period will still be cooking the meat and making it tender. Some guys even keep coolers (without ice) handy and toss the meat into them to continue the internal cooking when they reach a certain temp.

I've had restaurant owners go nuts over my pork I've smoked and tried to get me to teach them my ways. I've had golfers walk up through the woods behind the house when they smell the smoke if the wind is blowing in the right direction. It's a fun skill to learn, but it is a LOT of work to maintain that temp and keep the fire going.

I'm actually looking to replace the old fire box smoker with one of the newer electric smokers that look like a dorm fridge. Just maintain the wood chips and moisture and not having to worry about the heat part.

I told the wife that this is tops on my Fathers Day list!


Oh, almost forgot one important factor. Keep the damned lid closed! Too much peeking, and the heat goes away!! Just open enough to maintain adding to the humidity pan.

Edited by Scott Smith
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get the coals going at least an hour before you plan on putting the meat on. let the temp. stabilize. open the lids as little as possible. i use a spray bottle and spray an apple cider vinegar/water mix. i dont even sauce anything anymore. babyback ribs are a 4-5 hour cooking time. brisket can take 12-16 hours, depending on how you like it. one thing is, unlike most other forms of cooking, smoking the meat longer normally will make it more tender.

another thing is to make a habit of checking the temperature about 15-20 minutes after making changes in the fire box, either after adding coal or wood. remember that charcoal will light twice, initially after starting the fire, and once when it turns color. i sometimes mix coal and wood. add wood after an hour, then a handful of coals next hour and so on.

the meat will not look like normally cooked meat. especially chicken, it can be pinkish in the middle. remember it should be stringy type texture. everything will have a smoke ring when you cut it open. it can be pinkish also. get a good food thermometer.

kind of watch what you wear, your shirt will smell like the smoke after a good day at the smoker. you wont notice, but other people will be trying to figure out where the fire is. i just got a propane smoker. dont know if i like it as much as the type that you got, just havent got the same type of smoke flavor. still messing with it.

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Soak in salt brine for 6-8 hours.


Equal parts apple cider and cranberry juice (a gallon of each should do)

1 pound brown sugar

Marinate 1 1/2 - 2 days

Smoke until you get the desired toughness.

I recommend Misquite or oak for fuel

Don't give any to your friends because you won't get any for yourself

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Smoking is a matter of practice, practice, practice. Read as much as you can so you understand what you're supposed to do and see, but you only get good with practice. And the practicing is something you'll learn to love!

Also, get some good thermometers. Not the kind you buy locally. Thermoworks is the best. You can start off with a backlight "Thermapen", which you'll need no matter what. Backlight because a good brisket is an all-night event. You will someday need something like a meter with two probes, like the ThermaQ kit on this page: http://www.thermoworks.com/products/handheld/therma_q.html?#KitsTab

So, fire that bad boy up and let us know when to come!

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For ribs, the 321 method works well. Apply the dry-rub. Smoke @ 225F for 3h. Spritz with apple cider, wrap in foil, continue smoking at 225 for 2h. Unwrap, sauce, and finish for 1h @ 225.

Don't limit yourself to pork ribs, beef ribs and lamb ribs are great too!

Tomato sauce/paste will charcoal @ 250F, so don't go above 225 whenever your sauce includes tomato.

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Trying it out for the first time today. Doing some ribs to compliment the steaks for Mother's Day. Been going since about 9:30 this morning. Getting to the point where I'll wrap them in foil for a couple hours.

Rained off and on on me which added a wrinkle. Had an issue with the coals staying hot. Think I'm back to the good now.

Freaking smell is amazing.

Edited by Bigasshammm
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All right, all right, all right!

Welcome to the addition. Um, er... Don't forget, practice makes perfect! :whistle:

This is what the ribs look like when they're ready to be sauced, that is, after 3h unwrapped and 2h spritzed and wrapped:


One hour later and they're lookin' wonderful and ready-to-eat:


Edited by dnl42
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Yea mine didn't look that good. Forgot to take a pic. I do have a pic before they went on the smoker though I'll have to post that.

They turned out pretty good. Not exceptional I guess but good for the first time.

Those pictures above look like they were grilled more. If mine were supposed to look like that I did something wrong. Will be trying again come Memorial Day.

Never used a run before. Maybe I didn't put enough on?


Edited by Bigasshammm
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That's a bit skimpy on the rub. I think you need to go for an even coverage, as opposed to the "blue districts in Texas" type of coverage you have there. After you pat it on, pick up your slab and shake the excess off so you can see where you're going to have to replace it.

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